Dean Amhaus has served as the president and CEO of The Water Council since March 2010. His diverse, 40-year background in multiple sectors encapsulates a wide range of expertise in government relations, branding, fundraising, economic development and nonprofit management in Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wisconsin.
Amhaus has also served as the president of the Spirit of Milwaukee, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing Milwaukee’s image, as well as the president of Forward Wisconsin, the state’s marketing economic development organization, and executive director of the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Commission and Wisconsin Arts Board. He began his career working in Washington, D.C., for a firm that advocated for federal policy issues for the arts, humanities and people with disabilities.
James Eklund leads the water & natural resources practice at Sherman & Howard law firm, where he is a strong advocate for smart water infrastructure and a recognized authority on water management in the American West. He works with sovereign governments, multi-state authorities, state agencies and private interests to deliver critical water infrastructure projects and to design policy regarding water law, natural resources, infrastructure and environmental protection. He uses his depth of policy-making experience and notable connections with federal, state and local decision makers to assist clients on a wide variety of matters including environmental, regulatory and legislative issues and matters involving the use of public-private partnerships.
Eklund served as Colorado’s lead negotiator and signatory on the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan and as Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, where he built a reputation as a leader in negotiation and diplomacy. He is recognized for bringing together numerous stakeholders with opposing goals to collaboratively craft binding solutions to common problems. He was the architect of Colorado’s Water Plan, the largest civic engagement process in state history, and served as legal counsel to Colorado’s governor.
Ed Ferguson, chief sustainability officer at BlueTriton Brands, is a purpose-driven innovator with an engineering background and a go-getter attitude. He combines passion and pragmatism to create resilient, systems-based solutions for a better world. With over 10 years in the beverage industry, first at Anheuser-Busch and now with BlueTriton Brands, Ed has a strong background in beverage manufacturing, value chains, innovation and sustainability. His role at BlueTriton Brands is to empower value chains to thrive in a dynamic world so they can deliver a better tomorrow through long-term sustainability in water stewardship, circular packaging, climate action and communities.
Seven years ago, Dean Amhaus, the president and CEO of The Water Council, was looking for a way to bring fresh energy to the annual Water Leaders Summit. Dean knew the work of journalist Charles Fishman and had heard him talking about water on NPR, so he asked Fishman if he’d be interested in finding an all-new way of staging a conference.
That’s how the Water Leaders Summit came to have its original, energizing style. Every panel tackles an urgent topic in the storytelling format that is now a hallmark of the Water Leaders Summit. Fishman draws stories and examples from experts that they’ve never shared before — and he makes sure no question goes unasked.
Fishman started his reporting career at the Washington Post, where he was part of the team that investigated the Challenger space shuttle disaster. He is the author of three New York Times-bestselling books, most recently “One Giant Leap,” the story of how America put people on the moon in the 1960s. His book “The Big Thirst” is the bestselling book about water in a generation, and a standard for people trying to understand how best to tackle water problems. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, also a journalist.
Lauren Herzer Risi is the director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Wilson Center, a Congressionally-mandated think tank in Washington, D.C. She works with researchers, practitioners, policymakers, donors and the private sector to generate innovative, transdisciplinary solutions to development and security challenges related to environmental change and natural resource management. She has authored and edited a number of reports, including: 21st Century Diplomacy: Foreign Policy is Climate Policy; Navigating Complexity: Climate, Migration, and Conflict in a Changing World; and The Urgency of Opportunity: Russia’s War on World Resources.
Risi is the managing editor of New Security Beat; co-producer of a series of podcasts exploring the unintended consequences of responses to climate change; and co-producer of a series on water, conflict and peacebuilding. She served as a Crisis Corps volunteer with the Peace Corps and FEMA in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
As vice president of water stewardship, Matt Howard oversees The Water Council’s stewardship initiatives including WAVE: Water Stewardship Verified, water stewardship advisory services and comprehensive professional water stewardship training. Previously, TWC helped establish the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) System globally with specific oversight of North America. Matt created the world’s first professional credentialing program for water stewardship professionals and made the business case for use of the International Water Stewardship Standard (“AWS Standard”) in the North American marketplace. His 15+ years in sustainability program development and management include serving as Milwaukee’s sustainability director and leading sustainable manufacturing initiatives during his time in Washington, D.C., where he worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce and as a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Dale Kooyenga is a lieutenant colonel in the United State Army Reserve serving as the lead capabilities development manager for the United State Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne). In that role, LTC Kooyenga is responsible for recruiting the nation’s top talent across several different industries including water. He’s also responsible for securing civilian partner institutions to increase the Army’s ability to conduct matters relating to Civil Affairs. Prior to Civil Affairs, LTC Kooyenga served as a military intelligence officer including deployments to Iraq where he was awarded the Bronze Star.
In his civilian capacity, Dale Kooyenga is a CPA and has served as CFO for water-related start-up entities. He currently serves as a state senator in Wisconsin, a position he’s held for the better part of four years, and previously served eight years as a Wisconsin state representative.
Maile Lono-Batura is the director of sustainable biosolids programs at the Water Environment Federation. She joined WEF in 2021 after serving as executive director of Northwest Biosolids for 22 years. She serves as a central coordinator and network leader for WEF’s biosolids programs, finding synergies across organizations to elevate impactful movements. Lono-Batura is a board-certified environmental scientist with the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists Board (AAEES) and was recognized as an AAEES 40 Under 40 Rising Stars Class of 2022.
Mike Nemeth is senior advisor for agricultural and environmental sustainability at Nutrien. He leads Nurtien’s global water stewardship efforts, with other focus areas of climate, nature and biodiversity, and the opportunities around system solutions between those portfolios. In previous roles, he has supported environmental efforts in agriculture, oil and gas, oil sands, power production and forestry. Nemeth is registered as a professional agrologist (P.Ag.) in the practice areas of environmental impact assessment and mitigation planning and water resources planning and management.
Mark Nevitt serves as associate professor of law at the Emory Law School. His research focuses on environmental law, with an emphasis on climate change’s role in destabilizing numerous areas of law and climate change’s security implications. He recently completed grant-funded research via the Kleinman Center at the University of Pennsylvania addressing the legal issues associated with climate adaptation and managed retreat.
Before academia, Nevitt served as both a tactical jet aviator and attorney (JAG) in the United States Navy, serving in the rank of commander and as a White House Military Social Aide. His military awards include the Air Medal and Meritorious Service Medal (four awards). As an aviator, Nevitt flew 1,000+ flight hours and accumulated more than 290 carrier-arrested landings from the USS Constellation (CV 64). As a Navy JAG, Nevitt served as an environmental attorney, criminal defense attorney, and ethics attorney and served as the senior legal advisor for the U.S. investigation into Iranian detention of U.S. sailors, Farsi Island, Iran.
Jaclyn Porfilio is a senior policy advisor to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, covering climate, economic development and supply chain disruptions. She leads climate policy for the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Commerce, with a focus on embedding climate considerations across the department, accelerating the development and deployment of clean technology, and building a climate-ready nation. Prior to joining the Department of Commerce, Jaclyn worked in Rhode Island State Government under then-Governor Raimondo, including as the RI Department of Health Chief Operating Officer for COVID Operations and the Chief of Staff to the Director of the RI Department of Environmental Management.
Timothy Repas is a co-founder and current president of Fixed Earth Innovations, a biotechnology company with a focus on the development and testing of microbes to solve challenges in remediation, ecosystem restoration and agriculture. He has over 11 years of experience in the biotechnology and environmental remediation sectors with experience in project management, environmental site investigation, in situ bioremediation of soil and groundwater, emergency spill response and site reclamation. He earned a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry at Elmira College in 2011 and a master of science degree in biology at the University of Saskatchewan in 2014. Repas is a professional agrologist registered with the British Columbia Institute of Agrologists with areas of practice including contaminated sites remediation, soil conservation and restoration, and biotechnology development.
Kathryn Sorensen, director of research at Arizona State University’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, served for many years as director of Phoenix Water Services as well as director of the City of Mesa Water Resources Department. In these roles she was responsible for the delivery of safe, clean, reliable water for millions of Arizonans, and significantly advanced the sustainable management of water resources in Arizona and the Colorado River basin. In her role at Arizona State University, she oversees the research efforts of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, serves as a professor of practice at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and as a senior global futures scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory.
Mark White is a board-certified environmental engineer with more than 25 years of international experience in the planning, design, construction and operations of drinking water treatment facilities. He is a vice president and drinking water discipline lead for CDM Smith, a global leader in the design and construction of environmental solutions. He is a trustee with the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and is a contributing author to several AWWA manuals of practice. He has authored more than 20 technical presentations on water treatment technologies at AWWA National Conferences and has taught classes on the design of water treatment systems at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In his capacity as sustainability manager for Toyota Motor North America, Mark Yamauchi heads up strategic initiatives crossing inter- and intradepartmental organizations that focus on sustainability and operational efficiencies. He led the team that developed the 1 MW fuel cell, which was the first of its kind and largest in the world at Toyota’s former Torrance, California, HQ Campus. He also led sustainability for Toyota’s new North American Headquarters in Plano, Texas, which has achieved LEED Platinum certification. He is currently leading the Trigen fuel cell program at Toyota’s Long Beach, California, port facility. Additionally, he heads Toyota’s North American efforts in water stewardship.
With over 30 years of experience in real estate and facilities and a LEED Accredited Professional since 2002, Yamauchi has provided advice on sustainability to nonprofits, corporations and governments on the municipal, federal and international level. Mark also sits on the Advisory Boards of the UCLA Engineering Extension Global Sustainability and Recycling and MSW Management Programs.